Here’s my Peter Ball Memorial Competition Entry. Enjoy!
As Lionel Messi was crowned Ballon D’or champion on the 10th of January for the second successive year, there was a hint of arrogance on FIFA’s behalf as they ignored to reward Xavi for his efforts in a wonderful 2010. The Spaniard had enjoyed one of his finest seasons in football to date and often leaves people scratching their heads as his imaginative passing is what’s been behind Barcelona’s recent success. I often speak of how players alike have battled through thick and thin to get where they are today, coming from weak backgrounds, suffering serious injuries and so on. For Xavi, its been a stroll in the park.
As an eleven year old, Xavi Hernandez was living the dream having just signed a contract with Spanish giants Barcelona. Xavi quickly progressed through the Barcelona youth setup and made the step up to the Barcelona ‘B’ side in the 97-98 season at just 17 years of age. His keen eye for the game was spotted almost instantaneously and he immediately kept his place in the team, finding passes no one else could possibly locate.
Xavi was rapidly evolving as an excellent individual talent and was rewarded for his consistency with a run in the senior Barcelona squad. Xavi impressed during his stint for the seniors, often running the show and Barcelona manager Louis Van Gaal was left dazzled by Xavi’s extraordinary performances.
Xavi retained a place in the Barcelona team and was inserted into a Barcelona side struggling for form. The introduction of Xavi saw a surge of results go the Catalan’s way and Xavi was again at the centre of everything, sensationally being hailed man of the match on numerous occasions.
Xavi has since consolidated his position in the Barcelona setup, becoming a regular and has been nominated for numerous honours, most recently, the FIFA Ballon D’or. He was behind Barcelona’s numerous title wins, as well as claiming the man of the match award in the Champions League final of 2009, in which he passed counterparts Manchester United to death.
Xavi, as a midfielder, has an outrageous range of passing and has been widely tipped to be the best the world has ever seen. The Spaniard’s delivery rate to football is what Michael Jackson was to music. His impeccable record saw him dismantle an Arsenal side well on their way back in April, completing a superb 92% (over 200) of his passes during those two ties. The 2009/10 season saw the evolution of a footballing great and at 30, his time is unfortunately coming to an end, but all is not lost. The world-renowned Barcelona La Masia academy has improved vastly since its introduction to football in 1979 and many players are constantly given chances in the first team. Thiago Alcantara has recently been tipped as Xavi’s successor, and has already made 6 appearances for the La Liga champions this term.
Xavi makes a gruelling task look effortless as he, on countless occasions, shifts the ball out of reach for the opponent and releases the ball to a teammate, sometimes in scintillating fashion spreading the ball 30-40 yards. His passing is the success behind Barcelona and Spain’s successful respective campaigns. His reading of the game is a stroke of brilliance and it was a shame he wasn’t given the honor of claiming the Ballon D’or he so rightfully deserved.
Arguably, there has never been a better passer of the ball than Xavi and when FIFA announced Messi had retained the trophy, the world fell victim to a case of choosing goals over creativity. Messi, during 2010 had scored 40+ goals and assisted a handful to be fair, but Xavi’s monstrous contribution unfortunately went unnoticed among the footballing community and its doubtful if he’ll ever get a better chance to place among the greats who claimed the prestigious Ballon D’or.